I have a confession to make: I don’t spend time on Christian forums. In fact, I can’t stand them.
Same with Christian churches. I haven’t been in one for years. Can’t stand those, either. I was in an Anglican chapel a few years back, but only because I was the only one there (I checked before going in). It was empty except for me. I liked it that way.
I don’t purposely avoid Christian-designated spaces. I just don’t go out of my way to spend time in them, mainly because there are usually no genuine Christians there. There’s something cold and cloying about those spaces. They don’t feel blessed by God. They tend to have an oddly vacant feel even when they’re full, as if the space is not loved, just passed through and tolerated. It does God a disservice, those spaces being like that. That’s one of the main reasons I avoid them.
I used to live in a Catholic church. Not really, but basically yes, I lived there. I was given a key by a priest so I could come and go as I pleased. I spent more of my time there than I did at home, which at that time was a converted garage that I shared with my little five-and-a-half-pound calico cat, Pumpkin. She’s gone home now to her real forever home, so this piece isn’t about her; I just mention her in passing because we had a very cozy time sharing the converted garage together.
I was living in the garage when God showed me the truth about Catholicism (that it’s a pagan cult). He didn’t show me in the garage; he showed me in the church. Even so, the garage at that time was like a shrine or an off-site chapel of the church, full of crucifixes, pictures of the pope, alleged pictures of Jesus and the saints, prayer beads, prayer cards, blessed candles, blessed salt, and even a little blessed cat (yes, I took Pumpkin to the church one day and had her blessed in a private ceremony). I thought I had to have and do all these things because the Pope said I should have and do them, and I always (in those days) did what the Pope told me to do. The Pope said that pets were to be blessed by a priest, so off I dutifully carted Pumpkin to the priest to be blessed, even though Pumpkin hated her carry case and also superstitiously believed bad things would happen to her if I put her into it. (She was usually right about that.)
Jesus tells us that God is looking for people to worship him not in a building but in Spirit and in Truth. You don’t usually find that kind of worshiping going on in church buildings. In most cases, you find people who are there out of obligation or just going through the motions, or you find people who are trying to outdo each other in spiritual enthusiasm, like cheerleaders. But people who are there just because they love God and actually want to be there? Those people are few and far between. That’s been my experience, anyway.
Same with online Christian forums. BORING! Not to mention ill-informed and tyrannical. I can be as tyrannical as the best of them, but only for the Truth. The tyranny on some Christian forums in support of outright scripture-defying lies is, to me, intolerable. You know who hangs out and dominates Christian forums (besides the occasional spook)? Modern-day Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers. All the ones Jesus locked horns with. That’s who you’ll find on most Christian forums. They’re the gatekeepers that Jesus warned us would be trying to keep us from finding and proceeding along the Way. There have been gatekeepers in some guise or other since Jesus’ day. Another name for gatekeepers is wolves.
But what you choose to do is up to you. If you like your church building, go into it. If you like your Christian forums, hang out on them. Maybe because I came to Christianity directly from atheism without any bridge other than God and Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit, I have no use for people who say they’re Christians but live as if they’re not. I have no time for hypocrites. And I have zero patience for people who teach doctrines that are a-scriptural. Most people who call themselves Christian are, by their words and actions, doing more to keep people away from Jesus and God than drawing them to them.
Jesus only taught those who wanted to learn what he was teaching. Yet he also drew people to him just by the way he was. They came to him without him trying to draw them. At one point, even people who’d been sent to arrest him forgot they were supposed to be arresting him, they were so captivated by his words. In fact, they even left without arresting him. This is the effect we should have on people, too.
We are not Jesus, but we are to be like Jesus. That’s what it means to be a Christian. People may come at us as enemies, to oppose us, but we should be able at least to give them pause. There should be something about us, something about our words and actions that makes them stop and reconsider. If the world and the hypocrites love us, we’re not doing our job. If we’re welcomed by the worldly church and feel comfortable on Christian forums, we’re not doing our job: We’re not being like Jesus.
Being a Christian means to be hated by the world and loved by those who love God and Truth, just like Jesus was. You can’t be a Christian and at the same time be loved and accepted by the world. It doesn’t work that way. But you can be a type of curiosity that draws some people who love Truth but are still in the world, like Jesus drew Nicodemus.
Jesus went to the pubs not to preach but to comfort. He knew that the people there would not be among those who followed him from place to place, and he knew they didn’t want to be preached to. But they might want to share a drink with him and shoot the breeze. So Jesus spent some time at the pubs, doing an informal ministry that mostly involved just listening rather than talking. I’m saying that’s what he likely did (though the evidence is not blatantly presented in scripture) because that’s what you do when you want to minister to people who don’t want to be ministered to – you listen to them, you offer a kind word, you buy them a drink, you spend time with them, you show them they have value.
Of course, Jesus was castigated by the Pharisees & Co. for spending time in pubs, yet their disapproval didn’t stop him from going. Nothing they said stopped him from doing God’s will, and going to the pubs to spend time with and comfort the lost was definitely God’s will or Jesus wouldn’t have done it.
There is a big difference between those who say they see and are lost, and those who are just plain lost. Jesus used discernment to know the difference between the two, and so should we. Don’t waste your time arguing with the blind who claim to see (you’ll find them hanging out on Christian forums and warming pews in church buildings); help those who God puts in your path, the ones who’ve rejected the world but can’t find the way forward because they haven’t been taught the true Gospel. These are the lost sheep Jesus came to minister to, and we must continue his work.
I have another confession to make. I prefer hanging out with atheists than fake Christians. Atheists reject organized religion, which is the right thing to do, but equate religion with God and Jesus, which is the wrong thing to do. But this is an error in judgment, not an attempt at pretence. I prefer to spend time with people who are honestly wrong about something than with people who pretend to be what they’re not or to know what they don’t. Hypocrites are just as despicable now as they were in Jesus’ day.
I know from personal experience that those who genuinely love and seek the truth eventually come to God, because what they’re seeking is God and can only be found in God.
So what is your confession? And how do you not fit the worldly Christian mold?